Some Non-Racist, Non-Sexist Halloween Costume Ideas

Every year we read about the worst sexist and racist Halloween costumes. And get really angry or bummed out about what should be a fun excuse to play dress-up.

So let’s discuss some alternatives, shall we? Most of these ideas can be thrown together last-minute — because how many of us really plan our costumes that far in advance? (Warning: Some ideas may contain shoulder pads.)

Radical, Militant Librarian

Need: Books, beret, sash, “shushing” skills.
Related ideas: Radical Doula (heeeyyy Miriam!), Radical Cheerleader, Radical Zombie

The Ghost of Health Care Bills Past

Need: White sheet, stethoscope
Related ideas: Ghost of Immigration Reform Bills Past, Ghost of Equal Rights Amendments Past. (Or apparently, given the image I’ve selected, Ghosts of Stevie Nicks Past.)

A Photoshop Disaster

Need: A t-shirt with a body drawn on it that’s less than half the size of your own. Or something (Haven’t really figured out how to make this one work yet…)
Related ideas: This is part of the grand Halloween tradition of just drawing some shit on a T-shirt… Could also be done with a Death Becomes Her Halloweeny twist.

Kanye West

Need: These, microphone, and a willingness to repeatedly make the “Imma let you finish” joke.
Related ideas: Taylor Swift (Couple costume!)

Nancy Pelosi

Need: Suit (preferably w/ skirt, not pants), gavel, shades, funky-but-understated jewelry.
Related ideas: Condi Rice, Hillary Clinton.

Dolly Parton

Need: Blonde wig, lots of sequins, guitar, falsies.
Related ideas: Leslie Hall

John Waters

Need: Garish-patterned suit jacket, drawn-on thin mustache, bowtie, drag-queen pals.
Related ideas: A dandy, Steve Buscemi (but only if you’ve got the looks for it.)

Judy the Talking Embryo

Need: Garbage bag, helium (to either inflate the bag or inhale to make your voice embyro-like). More info here.
Related ideas: Betty the Talking Blastocyst, Ollie the Talking Ovum.

Rickie Vasquez (from My So-Called Life)

Need: Drum-major jacket, hair gel, earring, shoulder pads, a buddy to go as Angela Chase.
Related ideas: Thriller-era Michael Jackson, actual drum major

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Need: Lacy neckerchief thing, black robe, clip-on earrings, bun, glasses.
Related ideas: Sonia Sotomayor

Heathers (Group idea!)

Need: Blazer with serious shoulder pads, croquet mallet, AquaNet, white tights.
Related ideas: 90210 (the original, obvs)

Richard Simmons

Need: Short track shorts, curly wig, thick white socks, tank top.
Related ideas: Evil aerobic clown

Werewolf Bar Mitzvah

Need: Fur, face paint, friends who like 30 Rock and will get the joke once you start singing.
Related ideas: Vampire Bar Mitzvah, Goblin Bar Mitzvah

Bea Arthur (RIP! This is an in-memoriam costume idea, one that I will probably use this year.)

Need: Gray wig and/or curling iron and gray spray-in hair color, a serious silk tracksuit, shoulder pads. Gratefulness for being a friend.
Related ideas: Other Golden Girls, obvs.

Last-minute cop-outs:
Shark: Tape a cardboard fin to your back
Unicorn: Tape a cardboard cone to your forehead
Narwhal: Tape a skinnier cardboard cone to your forehead.

Other costume ideas? C’mon I know you’ve got some good ones, so leave them in comments (including instructions on how to put it together). I’ll keep adding to this post as good ideas pop up.

Join the Conversation

  • bzzxz

    I’d go with the classic cool costume and dress as a zombie.

  • shsally

    intramural zombie hunter: http://www.seibei.com/shop/intramural.html
    Watch out bzzxz!

  • katie

    Swine flu (or flew): pig mask, wings, and a pink t-shirt w/H1N1 painted on it.

  • Courtney

    Ann, you’re a fucking spooky genius. You should become a costume consultant.

  • bzzxz

    In a similar vein, I’d love to get a group of people together and dress as the survivors and special infected from Left 4 Dead. And then we can run around and pull hella shenanigans.

  • bandersnatch

    The Shamwow Guy: Blue polo shirt, blond tips, headset, Shamwow draped over shoulder.
    Calvin and Hobbes: Red and black shirt, spiky blond hair, black shorts, red Converse sneakers, stuffed tiger.
    Also, I always thought it’d be fun to gather 11 friends and go as the signs of the Zodiac… that’d be really hard to coordinate though.

  • ann bran

    Aluminum foil also works well for creating a unicorn horn.

  • Toni

    “because how many of us really plan our costumes that far in advance.”
    I do. I was done before October. I’m Luna Lovegood. I’m working on a costume for my dad who is being Xenophilius Lovegood.

  • SociologicalMe

    I’m hoping to get a set of scrubs and a stethoscope, then write “I think therefore I am” on myself. I also really want to carry around a poster of Rasputin, but I don’t think any of my friends would get it.

  • DeafBrownTrash

    I’ve been saying this– why is it so hard to figure out a costume for Halloween? Halloween is all about ghosts, zombies, witches, goblins, trolls, serial killers, etc…
    racial and ethnic identities have NOTHING to do with Halloween! So this is a helpful post for clueless people who can’t figure out a costume.
    me, I’m gonna be a ghost. I’ll throw a white sheet over myself and puncture 2 holes in the sheet for my eyes.

  • Ann

    Hot tip!

  • SociologicalMe

    I’m making my son be Calvin! He’s just the right age and the right amount of naughty. Also, I love the zodiac idea (even though you’re right, it would be impossible to coordinate). You could also do some of the tarot Major Arcana figures.

  • Fresh Peaches

    There’s always the old bag of jellybeans standby. Take a clear drycleaner bag, cut holes just big enough for your legs in the closed part, and armholes in the sides. Put it on (over whatever clothing makes sense to you), fill the bag with balloons, cinch the open part around your neck and tie off with a festive scarf (taking care not to choke, obv). Voila!

  • chrisbean

    I’ve done both of these (not on Halloween):
    for the 06/06/06 zombie march, went as ZOMBIE ANN COULTER. Props: LBD, long blonde wig, zombie makeup, fake blood, fake coulter book. My friend made awesome protest signs: “If George W Bush had a brain, I’d eat it”; “Ban Zombie Marriage: God Said Adam & Eve, Not Adam & Bllllrrrrrrgggh!”
    for a friend’s “Martyr Party,” went as MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS. Props: Plaid tartan skirt, short crinoline to go under it, gold tiara, gold crucifix, fake blood (I used viscous dark red lipgloss for ease of touch-ups) to get the sliced-neck effect. Red wig if you’re not a natural.
    For this year, my boy and I are STILL(!) trying to decide between Betty and Don Draper, postapocalyptic warriors (think Mad Max meets the latest Terminator film), or dead celebrities (Farrah Fawcett/Billy Mays).
    Last year we went as Mia Wallace & Vincent Vega, which was basically the easiest “stuff-that’s-already-in-your-closet costume EVER.

  • fsu

    I just want to say that Blackface is NEVER appropriate. So, if you’re white, do not attempt the Kanye West costume.
    I was going to go as the Wicked Witch of the West, but now I’m rethinking that. If I do decide to do something else, it will have to be pretty simple to make.

  • cherie

    Maybe not racist or sexist, but good job on continuing the stereotypes. As a librarian, I’m sick of the shushing stereotype. Learn what a librarian actually does.
    If you want to see a really militant librarian, shush, and you’ll see my response.

  • Ann

    Sorry — thought the scare quotes were sufficient to indicate I was joking.

  • Lilith Luffles

    Sexy Clitoris:
    Pink dress, pink tights, pink heels, pink eyeshadow, pink lipstick, pink blush, pink gloves, and of course… a pink shrug top with a pink hood.

  • ElleStar

    I got my idea from a picture here (I can’t remember of who or when, Sorry!). I’m going as Rosie the Riveter and drawing “We Can Do It!” on my bicep.

  • everybodyever

    Recently I came up with what I think is an awesome costume idea, but soon I realized I have feminist issues with it. I would love any other feminists’ takes on it.
    The costume: Rosemary from Rosemary’s Baby. It would involve a thrifted frumpy nightgown, a large knife, some make-up to make me look sickly, a necklace with a teaball attached to it, my own hair (which resembles Mia Farrow’s in that movie) and — best of all — a homemade devil baby as I imagine one would look. This would probably require a baby doll, some fake fingernails/claws, horns and spray paint.
    It only occurred to me a few days later that this could be a really bad idea because of the fact that this month’s most infamous rapist made the movie. Make no mistake, I like the movie, despite its troubling treatment of marital rape and, well, Satan rape. And I also think Roman Polanski is a disaster of a human being who should spend decades in prison.
    So would a costume based on his movie appear implicit rape apologism? Maybe more practically, do y’all think that if I dress as Rosemary, I’ll have to fend off questions about Polanski all night? (My friends are hardly as feminist or politically engaged as y’all, but who knows…)

  • Dia14

    Me, I’m thinking of throwing on one of my grandmother’s old dresses and going in drag as a femme. Either that or putting on a REALLY fancy one and going as a Billionaire for WealthCare. Happy Halloween, Ann!

  • everybodyever

    How I love the weirdo variations on “sexy ____.” A friend is dressing as a sexy Gandhi this year.

  • erin-tc

    The Zombie Ann Coulter is pure genius! My favorite part is the sign – “Ban Zombie Marriage: God Said Adam & Eve, Not Adam & Bllllrrrrrrgggh!”
    On a similar note, I was thinking of going as Elizabeth Bennet from “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”, but am lacking in appropriate ninja weapons.

  • norbizness

    And I’ll be Dr. Charles Grodin!

  • biancamarissa

    Coraline!

  • VT Idealist

    I’m going as Dr. Horrible. I needed welding goggles (that I’ll probably spray paint silver), welding gloves, white rain boots, and a lab coat that I’m modifing to look more like the side close coat he wore. You could also probably get away with buying a generic ‘mad scientist’ costume for the lab coat.
    I’m trying to convince my roommate to go as Captain Hammer. All that’s needed is a pair of black gloves (already own) and a tshirt with the Captain Hammer logo. I’m just going to print out the logo on some iron-on transfer paper and put it on a cheap tshirt.
    Other costumes that will be making an appearance at our geek-tastic Halloween shindig….
    Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank from MST3K.
    Dr. Forrester just needs a pair of green rimmed glasses (already purchased) and a green lab coat. We’ll be dying a used labcoat green this weekend. TV’s Frank only needed a black chef type coat and some hair gel. I’ll be printing out the Deep 13 logo on iron-on transfer paper to put on their coats.
    The Master from Manos: Hands of Fate
    I sew and one of my friend’s specifically requested this costume. It’s basically a big piece of black polar fleece folded in half with a head hole cut out of it. I then cut out giant hands from red polar fleece and sewed them on.

  • Meggy B

    That’s my costume idea! Swine Flu Incarnate. I’m wearing a spooky long black dress, a pig snout, and a pig’s tail. I also want to construct a large syringe prop so that I can carry it around and poke people with the cure. I’ve already debuted a less sophisticated version of this at my school’s LBBTQ masquerade ball a few weeks ago.

  • Meggy B

    LGBTQ*

  • VT Idealist

    Eek! Random misuse of apostrophe! Sorry about that. That’s even one of my own personal pet peeves.

  • FLT

    Thanks, Cherie!
    Quotation marks do not make jokes that continue stereotypes ok.

  • squiddie

    That’s what I’m doing! I have some scrubs from when I interned in a surgery center, and found my mom’s stethescope from her nursing school days. Got a pen at a Grad School fair that’s shaped like a syringe…should be a fun night.

  • Gexx

    1) White shirt with big yellow spot in middle + devil horns = deviled egg
    2) white shirt with “I ::heart:: ceilings!!” + baseball cap + pennant with “Ceilings # 1!!” = Ceiling Fan
    3) (group) a whole bunch of people dress up in all green = Gangrene (Gang Green)

  • bandersnatch

    How ’bout a sexy Jesus?

  • pmsrhino

    I’m going as Tank Girl and my boyfriend is gonna be one of the Reapers from the video game Infamous. :D Gonna be an awesome Halloween!

  • Gexx

    1) White shirt with big yellow spot in middle + devil horns = deviled egg
    2) white shirt with “I ::heart:: ceilings!!” + baseball cap + pennant with “Ceilings # 1!!” = Ceiling Fan
    3) (group) a whole bunch of people dress up in all green = Gangrene (Gang Green)

  • MLEmac28

    I’m going as Carmen Sandiego. I found a red hat. I’ll probably shop around at thrift stores for a long red coat. Aside from that, I’ll wear jeans, boots, a black shirt, and gloves. I might make a fake mona lisa or something that I can carry around as well.

  • gemma

    Happily Greenface is ALWAYS appropriate. (For Wicked Witch of the West, that is.)

  • pmsrhino

    Also, both of which are easy because it pretty much just means thrift store + scissors + paint. The Reaper hoodie requires a little sewing but pretty much just sewing a hood to a pea coat. And I bought an old army helmet for the Tank Girl costume. :) I realized people were kinda saying how to make the costumes, lol, figured I’d do the same. :P

  • everybodyever

    Oh, and more ideas, mostly movie-based, that are fairly easy if anybody’s interested:
    Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window: Pajamas, a giant leg cast (maybe made out of poster tubes or papier-mache), a camera with a zoom lens. Would that I could convince my boyfriend to do it.
    Also on the Hitchcock kick, Tippi Hedren from The Burns. Mostly you need an early 60s skirt-and-sweater outfit, a blonde wig, fake birds attached to and pecking at you, and some blood drippage. There’s no mistaking this for somebody else; my aunt did this very well.
    Michael J. Fox from Back to the Future (you pick which one). Short hair, tight jeans, suspenders, retro sneakers, puffy vest, goggles, skateboard (or Hoverboard) and perhaps the DeLorean controller (a video game controller?).
    Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka. I thought about doing this because I have a coat that looks like his long purple one. In addition, you’d need a top hat, bow tie, ruffled tux shirt, cane, frizzy hair, lollipops and candy bars. And maybe the skill of somersaulting from a standing position. And an Oompa Loompa.
    The guy from Alien who has the alien burst through his stomach. Alternately, Sigourney Weaver in that movie. I believe she wears some sort of jumpsuit. Or, you know, just underwear and an undershirt. And a flamethrower and a cat.
    A head on a platter on a table, like this. A sturdy cardboard or wood box with a hole cut in the middle for your head, plus a tablecloth, plate, silverware and food. I’ll warn that it’s awfully hard to move in comfortably.

  • everybodyever

    Um, obviously I meant The Birds; I don’t know why I typed Burns instead. Weird.

  • JesiDangerously

    I read that as Militant Libertarian.

  • skylark

    I’m going as a crossword puzzle. I found amazing crossword fabric and I’ll probably make a crown of mini pencils.
    Once I saw someone dressed in a toga with a crown of lettuce and various vegetables stuck in her belt… She was Caesar Salad. It was beautiful.
    A bunch of my friends went as Tetris pieces – boxes in various Tetris forms so they could fit together when people sang the music. Interactive costumes = awesome.
    Last year I tried to go as Gloria Steinem… let’s just say no one guessed that one.

  • englishteacher

    rock me, rock me, rock me, sexy Jesus….
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LyKxzw6cjg

  • Ann

    That was Chloe, I think!

  • annE

    For halloween this year, i’m going as the Captain AND Tennille simultaneously. Captain’s hat and some ridiculously awesome 70s dress…can’t go wrong with that! Also, i’m all for subverting the gender roles of 70s pop duos. :)

  • anteup

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/dorsner/2984626938/
    THE COOLEST LITTLE KID EVER.
    or you know..a wobbegong.

  • fsu

    LOL! This is true.
    I think I WILL go as the Wicked Witch. I have more respect for her after listening to the score of Wicked enough times to get a general idea of the story.

  • Jannat

    How about Hermione Granger? Or another cool Harry Potter character?

  • Wren

    I’m going as Little Red Riding Hood, but I’ll have the wolf’s head in MY basket and my Very Own Axe. I’m considering painting the plastic axe pink and basically writing on it “Her Very First Axe!” but I don’t think people will get it.

  • VT Idealist

    I had that same thought last weekend, but we’re now all committed to our costumes already, I would have suggested we go as the survivors. It would be fairly easy and it’s a great group costume.